Murray v. United States

Murray v. United States Case Brief

United States Supreme Court
487 U.S. 533 (1988)

ISSUE: Must evidence obtained through a legal search be suppressed if an illegal search was conducted prior to the legal one but the knowledge gained through the illegal search was not used to obtain the warrant?
HOLDING: No, probably not.
FACTS:
  • Fed. law enforcement agents received tips from informants re. Murray and Carter, so agents surveilled both going into a warehouse in South Boston
  • Agents saw the two drive the truck and the camper out of the warehouse, and after following them, the agents stopped them and arrested them
    • Both vehicles contained marijuana
  • Several of the agents then forced entry into the warehouse and observed several bales of marijuana, but left without disturbing them
  • Agents applied for a search warrant but did not mention the prior illegal search at all -- warrant issued
    • 270 bales of marijuana and notebooks listing customers were found
PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
  • Ds moved to suppress the evidence, arguing that the subsequent legal search was tainted by the initial unlawful entry even though the issuing magistrate didn't know of the illegal search
    • Denied
    • Ct. App. affirmed
RULES:
  • Exclusionary Rule: Prohibits introduction into evidence of tangible materials seized during an unlawful search and of testimony concerning knowledge acquired during an unlawful search
    • Derivative Evidence: The exclusionary rule also prohibits the introduction of derivative evidence, both tangible and testimonial, that is the product of the primary evidence, or that is otherwise acquired as an indirect result of the unlawful search up to the point at which the connection with the unlawful search becomes so attenuated as to dissipate the taint
  • Independent Source Doctrine: Allows into evidence all evidence acquired in a fashion untainted by the illegal evidence-gathering activity
REASONING:
  • Police incentives: An officer with PC sufficient to obtain a search warrant would be foolish to enter the premises first in an unlawful manner because he would risk suppression of all the evidence on the premises, both seen and unseen
    • Officer would have to convince a magistrate and the later trial judge that the info unlawfully obtained didn't affect either the decision to seek a search warrant or the magistrate's decision in issuing the warrant
  • Apply independent source doctrine: While knowledge of the marijuana was obtained during the first unlawful search, it was also obtained through the second lawful search, so there's no valid reason not to apply the doctrine
  • Seizure of tangible evidence: So long as the later, lawful seizure is genuinely independent of an earlier, tainted one, there is no reason why the independent source doctrine shouldn't apply to tangible evidence
    • Ct. App. said it was independent here, but Dist. Ct. didn't specifically determine that agents would have sought a warrant but for the unlawful search = remand
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